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An amateur radio operator. The term's origin is uncertain, but most likely came from early, pre-radio days, when Morse-code operators were referred to as "ham-fisted" and called "hams." Anecdote places the origin as the first initials of "Hertz," "Ampere" and "Marconi," the originators of radio technology, but the term was used before Marconi's time. See amateur radio.

amateur radio

Also called "ham radio," it is wireless voice communications that can reach "ham operators" up to hundreds of miles away, sometimes thousands. Amateur radio is often a hobby, but can also be a public service. Dating back to the early 1900s when Morse code was transmitted rather than voice, amateur radio operates in the shortwave frequency bands using AM, FM, SSB (single sideband) and other modulation methods.

Licensing Is Required
In order to use an amateur radio, applicants must pass a test, which varies depending on the country. There are several test levels, each one granting more privileges to the operator, such as range of frequencies and antenna power. Licensed operators are issued a "callsign," which identifies them on the air.

In the U.S., amateur radio's origins lingered for decades, requiring Morse code proficiency to obtain a basic license until 1991. Finally, in 2007, Morse code was dropped for advanced licenses. See EchoLink.

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